Report on Recruiting and Academic Initiatives

January is one of the more interesting months at Saint Mary's College. Although campus may seem quiet for some of us, for others the pace and energy never abates. We know that many undergraduate students are off campus, traveling abroad to destinations such as Tonga, Colombia, South Africa, India, the Middle East, Italy and Singapore, as well as domestically, including Yosemite and the Sundance Film Festival, and throughout the Bay Area. As these undergraduates return, they join those who have been on campus during Jan Term and graduate students from programs in business, leadership and education. And as we send students out, we also bring the community in through our successful speakers and events

Those who have been gone for some part of January will come back to discover recent investments in our physical infrastructure. During January, we began instructional furniture replacement in Dante Hall and electrical system upgrading in Garaventa, bringing welcome improvements to those classrooms. Attention to instructional facilities should continue with an assessment of space utilization in Galileo Hall later this month. Beyond physical investments, the contributions from our community to the intellectual vibrancy and achievement of our academic goals have been intense and inspiring.

From January 21-23, we held our first Writer's Retreat at Mount La Salle, the Christian Brothers' retreat in Napa, under the leadership of Dean Zhan Li, collaborating with Deans Brunetti, Wensley and Woolpert, and with co-sponsorship from Steve Bachofer, director of faculty development. Sixteen full-time faculty attended the retreat, engaging in data analysis, revisions of papers, completions of book chapters and launching of new projects. Participants called it a "welcome respite," commenting on "the lovely, reflective, and inspiring time to share with colleagues" and "the opportunity to know more about my colleagues and our Lasallian tradition." I plan to continue supporting events such as these in the future.

We also have continued our steady pace of recruiting and interviewing for academic leadership positions. Three candidates for dean of the Kalmanovitz School of Education were interviewed on campus during January, and I am hopeful that we will be welcoming a new dean in the coming months. On behalf of the search committee for the dean of academic resources, Committee Chair Linda Wobbe attended the American Library Association Mid-Winter Meeting in January as recruiting for that position intensifies. I announced the position posting and search committee membership for vice provost for undergraduate academics in the Senate recently, and the committee will be convening soon (Steve Woolpert, chair, and members Jerry Brunetti, Larisa Genin, David Flanagin, Scott Kier, Brother Richard Lemberg, Mary Volmer and Hoang Vu). Finally, nominations were solicited for the vice provost for graduate and professional studies in anticipation of filling that position early this spring.

The new year has also brought intensified energy around the consideration and implementation of academic initiatives that will serve us well into our future. Under the leadership of Steve Cortright, chair of the Academic Senate; Asbjorn Moseidjord, chair of the Undergraduate Educational Policies Committee; and Zach Flanagin, chair of the Core Curriculum Implementation Committee, substantial progress has been made toward Senate approval of the goals, outcomes and administrative structure for the new Core Curriculum. The Seminar Review Committee, led by Ellen Rigsby, is also making progress in identifying essential elements of Collegiate Seminar and exploring potential for change.

The Core Curriculum renewal, Collegiate Seminar review, strategic initiative funding proposals and the debut of the Academic Blueprint are all converging at an exciting and opportune time for Saint Mary's. We are advancing a full collegiate experience, grounded in faith, preserving the core of our liberal arts tradition, drawing on disciplinary synergies and committed to the full development of our students. In addition to our compelling curricular initiatives, the Academic Blueprint provides College-wide directions for graduate and undergraduate programs alike. The Academic Blueprint Task Force completed its work in December, building on the strategic directions, goals and tactics discussed over the past two years and culminating in a cohesive document that also identifies implementation processes and time lines. Some Blueprint initiatives, such as the new Faculty Awards to be announced at the February 18 Scholar's Reception and the January Writer's Retreat, already demonstrate the alignment of academic activities with the goals of the Blueprint. Over the next three months, additional implementation details will be discussed across campus with the Staff Council and Academic Senate; in the Cabinet; with program directors, chairs and deans; in student leadership meetings; with the Board of Trustees; and in countless other meetings across campus. The final Academic Blueprint will be published for external distribution by the end of March.

Ultimately, the strength of our programs and success of our initiatives will be demonstrated by the performance of our students. We are increasingly called to promise, measure and prove outcomes, including some that are ineffable and realized over the course of a lifetime and others that are demanded by "Educational Effectiveness" criteria from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), "Assurance of Learning" expectations from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and professional teaching standards from the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). Institutional reports to each of these agencies are due in the coming 18 months.

The changes in our community, curriculum and external environment continue to come quickly. Our year has already begun with collective responses, shared purpose and strategic direction that will serve our students well in the years ahead. Thank you for your contributions, and I look forward to our work together.


Beth Dobkin